Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of The Lion
In this straightforward version of William Shakespeare's tragedy of deception and jealousy, director Ron Daniels has cast a Pakistani-American actor, Faran Tahir, as the Moornot an African (or African-American) but a Muslimand set the action in the time around World War I when the Ottoman Empire was collapsing and the European powers were carving up the Middle East.
Tahir presents a multifaceted Othello: dignified and proud among soldiers and statesmen, robustly playful with Desdemona (Ryman Sneed), and utterly trusting as Iago (Jonno Roberts) sets out to destroy him. The casting of Roberts, an older man with a working-class accent, and Patrick Vaill as a young, slight, rather callow Cassio helps to set up Iago's sense of grievance: Iago has paid his dues where Cassio has not, and someone has to pay for that.
In smaller roles, Merritt Janson sparkles as a self-possessed Emilia, who stands up to her husband Iago until she realizes just how dangerous he is, and Ben Diskant provides comic relief as a very prissy Roderigo.
Daniels and fight director Robb Hunter have created muscular tableaux with their cast on Riccardo Hernandez's austere set, a platform bordered by oil drums on each side and a bank of large fans in the rear wall, Christopher Akerlind's lighting design includes a disorienting row of lights along the rear wall that periodically pierce the haze onstage and shine into the eyes of the audience. Emily Rebholz's costume design is largely built around a neutral palette of off-white and khaki, with a few standout pieces such as Iago's battered leather trench coat and the richly ornamented robes of the courtesan Bianca (Natascia Diaz).
Shakespeare Theatre Company